Ephesians Episode 9

Beth's Notes

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”--which is the first commandment with a promise-- 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.  Ephesians 6:1-9 (NIV)

It is only in the Christian life that surrender brings victory, Amen?  In all four Gospels Jesus tells us to deny self and take up our crosses and follow Him. Luke’s version adds “daily” and goes like this in Luke 9:23:
23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-26 (NIV)

As we have stated before, God is looking for our wholehearted devotion and willing minds.  If we hold back anything from Him that is exactly where Satan’s arrows will shoot causing our downfalls fast. Neither does He force His good and pleasing and perfect will upon us. He is quite the gentleman yet, to be sure, we are the great losers when we choose to go our own ways over His and go forth in our own strength which is indeed weakness. John Newton’s quote always comes to mind when I am talking about the will of God:
“It is natural for us to wish and to plan, and it is merciful of the Lord to disappoint our plans and to cross our wishes. For we cannot be safe or happy until we are weaned from our own wills and made simply desirous of being directed by His guidance. Although we understand this we seldom learn to put it into practice without being trained for a while in the school of disappointment. The schemes we form look so plausible and convenient that when they are broken we are ready to say, ‘What a pity!’  We try again, and with no better success; we are grieved, and perhaps angry, and plan another, and so on; eventually, in the course of time, experience and observation begin to convince us that we are no more able than we are worthy to choose correctly for ourselves. The Lord’s invitation to cast our cares upon Him, and His promise to take care of us, appear valuable; and when we have done planning, His plan in our favor gradually opens, and He does more and better for us than we could either ask or think. I can hardly recollect a single plan of mine, which if it had taken place in the time and the way I wanted would, humanly speaking, have proved my ruin; or at least would have deprived me of the greater good the Lord had designed for me. We judge things by their present appearance; but the Lord sees them in their consequences. If we could do the same we would be perfectly of His mind; but since we can’t, it is an unspeakable mercy that He will manage for us, whether we are pleased with His management or not; and it is regarded as one of His heaviest judgments when He gives any person up to the way of their own hearts, and to walk according to their own wisdom.”  

God’s children are swimming upstream in living contrary to the world, Amen? We live among men but we move in a different direction as we are led by the Holy Spirit. Those of the world take the path of the world’s leanings but those who belong to Jesus have their hearts and minds set on things above as Paul writes in Colossians 3:1-4:
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

Drawing near to the Father in wholehearted devotion is our chief good. It is both our joy and happiness to seek Him. The nearer anything is to the principle of something, the better off it is. Nearer to the sun, the more light; nearer to the fire, the more heat; nearer to goodness, the more good; nearer to happiness the more happiness. Therefore it must be the greatest happiness to draw nearer to God. As we love God we desire even greater communion with Him – there is always “further still” with the Father.  Like Mary who chose the better part. We should beg the Spirit to set our hearts and souls on things above when we discover worldly things leading us contrary. God desires to be seen through our jars of clay – this brings Him much glory. This happens when we are prepared to identify ourselves with Him. Make no mistake about it, He did not come to leave us the same. We are to be changing in ever increasing measure, conforming to Jesus’ image, restoring us to our true function as human beings. God sent His Son not just to get us out of hell and into heaven but rather to get the God of heaven into you and me, making Him visible to all our spheres of influence. Just as Paul tells us in Galatians 2:20:
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NIV)
Paul is saying in effect, “I am a redeemed sinner, and the risen Jesus has come to reinvade my humanity so that He can serve with my hands, walk with my feet, speak with my lips, see with my eyes, hear with my ears, think with my mind, and love with my heart, so that to me, to live now is Christ.” This, my friends, is walking as Jesus did. And this is the gospel as we need to understand it, because the Lord Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). We are Christ’s ambassadors as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21:
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (NIV)

We are sent forth on the same terms and for the same purpose – leaving the aroma of Christ in all of our encounters. We must labor to be convinced of this and the excellencies of spiritual things for our own good and the good of our families and for His glory. 

The manner in which we do the will of God is as important as the task itself. God is always looking at the heart and the motivation behind the action. He is well pleased when we obey willingly and wholeheartedly.  It demonstrates that we believe His way is best. In 1 Chronicles 28:9 David tells his son Solomon - and us as well:
9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” 1 Chronicles 28:9 (NIV)

Also, obedience to God’s revealed will is hugely important.  We are not to be ignorant of God’s Word. The Prophet Jeremiah tells us in Jeremiah 7:21-25:  
21 “‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.’” Jeremiah 7:21-24 (NIV)

We do not want to go backwards ladies. Obedience to God’s commands demonstrates we believe He has our best interest at heart, that He loves and cares for us, that all He allows in our lives is for our good and His glory never one surpassing the other and that we can trust Him with our lives and the lives of those we hold most dear to us. Our obedience must be set by the sundial of God’s Word – we are to obey God’s will entirely with nothing cut away or disregarded. It is obedience to all of Scripture, not simply what we want to pick and choose. Even the least command is not to be left undone. And we are to do this without wavering. Every command carries with it the same authority and we are to do it uprightly and uniformly.    

It seems that no matter where we look in modern society, we see antagonism, division and rebellion, Amen? Husbands and wives are divorcing each other, children are rebelling against their parents; and employers and employees are seeking for new ways to avoid strikes and keep the machinery of industry running productively. The family is in shambles and as we stated last week, as the family goes so goes the nation. In our verses for today Paul gives us a solution to the antagonisms in the home and in society – regeneration – a new heart from God and a new submission to Christ and to one another through the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do this in the flesh. It will fail us every time. 

God’s great program is to have all things under one head which is Christ.  He tells us earlier in Ephesians 1:9-10:
9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. Ephesians 1:9-10 (NIV)

Paul indicated that this spiritual harmony begins in the lives of Christians who are submitted to the Lordship of Jesus. He begins by admonishing four groups of Christians about how they should have harmony in Christ. 

The Apostle begins with Christian children. Paul did not tell the parents to admonish the children, he did it himself, speaking directly to them.  Children were present in the assembly when this letter was read. He also stated similar words in Colossians. We discover in Colossians 3:20-21:
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Colossians 3:20-21 (NIV)

Disobedience to parents is designated in the Old Testament as rebellion against God and was severely punished. Jesus set an example for children by obeying Joseph and His mother Mary. Children’s obedience to parents pleases the Lord. This does not suggest that obeying one’s parents merits salvation for a child. Rather, obedience reflects God’s design for order in the home. It also does not mean that children are to obey parents only if their parents are believers. A child’s obedience to his or her parents is pleasing in God’s sight, period. God knows every heart and He sees all. The reason for this is that it is right – it is the proper course to follow in society. It is also noteworthy that Paul thinks of the local congregation as a “church family”.  We have all been given duties and instructions to make things “run” smoothly. Remember, our God is a God of order.

Child obedience does not depend on special revelation; it is part of the natural law which God has written on all human hearts. It is not confined to Christian ethics; it is standard behavior in every society. Pagan moralists, both Greeks and Romans taught it. Stoic philosophers saw a son’s obedience as self-evident, plainly required by reason and part of “the nature of things”. Indeed, virtually all civilizations have regarded the recognition of parental authority as indispensable to a stable society.  It is no surprise when the Apostle includes “disobedient to parents” as a mark both of a decadent society which God has given up to its own godlessness and of “the last days” which began with the coming of Christ. It is interesting (and pathetically sad) to see how our society is turning this around today making the children the ones in control and the parents acquiescing their God given responsibilities.     

Paul next quotes the fifth commandment from Exodus 20:12:
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.“ Exodus 20:12 (NIV)

The honoring of parents by children is the child’s duty to God for at least during childhood, parents represent God to the child and parents are to demonstrate God’s authority and His love. 

Nothing in all history has done so much for the elevation and development of children as Christianity. For example, a Roman father had absolute power over his family. He could sell them as slaves; he could make them work in his fields - even in chains; he could take the law into his own hands, for law was in his own hands and he could punish as he liked; he could even inflict the death penalty on his own child. Further, the power of the Roman father extended over the child’s whole life, so long as the father lived. A Roman son never came of age.
There was also the matter of child repudiation, leading to exposure of the newborn.  When a baby was born it was placed before its father. If the father stooped and lifted the child, the child was accepted and was raised as his. If he turned away, the child was rejected and was literally discarded. Such rejected children were either left to die, or they were picked up by those who trafficked in infants. These people raised children to be slaves or to stock the brothels. One Roman father wrote to his wife from Alexandria: “If – good luck to you! – you have a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.

Against such pagan cruelty the new relations of parents to children and children to parents brought by the Christian gospel stand forth like bright sunshine after a dismal storm.

Again, the Apostle stresses obedience as the fundamental relationship of children to parents. As we are to see, it is not an absolute obedience (as, for example, if a parent should command a child to do a wicked or un-Christian thing), and it ought always to be obedience rendered in the context of a loving parent-child relationship. Parents are to have their child’s best interest at heart. They are not our slaves rather they are our responsibilities to lovingly raise them up in the Lord. We will be held accountable for these precious ones under our roofs. This is a job which we seek to work ourselves out of as we are desirous for them to be God fearing and loving adults – adding to and not taking away from society.  Nevertheless, God calls them to a true obedience, guided, but not abolished, by love. Children owe obedience to parents. It is true that this duty has often been greatly distorted and abused, in Christian as well as in non-Christian circles, but it is an abiding obligation, nonetheless. And, make no mistake about it, we all live Coram Deo – before the face of God.    

The obligation is not merely on the side of the child, who must obey, but also on the side of the parent, who must enforce the obedience. This is because the parent stands as God in relationship to the child. To teach the child to obey the parent, is to teach the child to obey God, Amen? But remember we cannot teach what we do not have. That is why obedience is stressed throughout all Scripture for all of us. I always used to tell my kids I am in this just like you are. We all live our lives for an audience of One. To allow the child to defy and disobey the parent is to teach the child to defy and disobey God with all the obvious consequences that will most assuredly follow. And it is not a pretty sight.    

Paul also imposes on children to honor their parents – a duty which he is careful to show, is based on divine revelation and not merely on natural law. This is a difficult area for not all parents live in such a way that their children can properly honor them, especially if the child has become a Christian and the parents are not Christians. It is well to remember that everyone owes obedience and respect to those over them, but not at the expense of the obedience we owe to God.

Paul encourages children by three inducements: First, obedience and honor are the right relationships as they are grounded in natural law.  Second, they are a Christian duty; they are to be exercised “in the Lord” and are part of the Ten commandments. Third, they are enforced by a promise, namely, that it will “go well with” those who practice them and they will “enjoy long life on the earth.” This is a general promise that God’s material and physical blessings rests on those who work at being Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory – which often means dying to self in many circumstances in these relationships.

Obedience to God’s revealed will always bring blessings. It is sin that robs us while obedience always enriches us. We must teach our children (and remind ourselves) that we can never outgive God. He sees every sacrifice we make for His glory – not one goes unseen. When they are obedient as unto the Lord, He is well pleased. This goes for us also. Every dirty diaper, every throw up mess, ever discipline action when exhausted, every interruption when we want to be left alone – we are to do it as unto the Lord in His power for His glory and He smiles.

Next Paul addresses Fathers. In Paul’s day, the father had supreme authority over the family. Paul told the parent’s not to abuse this authority in raising their children rather encourage and build them up in the Lord. We are not to embitter our children or they will become discouraged. If left to themselves, children will be rebels – they must be raised - so it is necessary for the parents to train their children. Years ago, the then Duke of Windsor said, “Everything in the American home is controlled by switches – except the children!” 

The Bible records the sad results of parents neglecting their children, either by being bad examples to them or failing to discipline them properly. David pampered Absalom and set before him a bad example, and the results were tragic. Eli failed to discipline his sons, and they brought disgrace to his name and defeat to the nation of Israel.  In his later years, even Isaac pampered Esau, while his wife showed favoritism to Jacob resulting in a divided home. Jacob showed partiality to Joseph when God providentially rescued the lad and made a man out of him in Egypt. It is interesting to me that as parents we can often harm our own children even when seeking to protect them - keeping them from God’s best.  More often than not God teaches us through the hard, Amen? We will not always be around and we want our children to be strong in the Lord however that plays out. God is the Master of making beauty out of ashes.

We can provoke our children and discourage them by saying one thing and doing another – by always blaming but never praising, by being inconsistent and unfair in discipline, by showing favoritism in the home, by making promises and not keeping them, and by making light of problems that, to the children are very important, and on and on we could go. Christian parents need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit so that they can be sensitive to the needs and problems of their children.

It is also uber important to know your own children well. Where are their giftings? How as a parent can you help fan them into flames? Remember, too, they are not you – and further, you do not want them to be. They have differing likes and dislikes, differing abilities, differing tastes (which are subjective). Try not to major on the minors (which can be uber easy to do). We must learn how our children want to be loved. Some want time, some gifts, some words of affirmation, some touch, some acts of service – you get the picture – and they are all differing! That’s what makes parenting so difficult – it is not cookie cutter nor a one size fits all. Further, the Bible teaches us the responsibility for this training of children falls on the parents. However helpful others may be, the responsibility falls on the parent’s shoulders. Lastly, learn how to be gracious to yourself. Not one of us is perfect and we will all make mistakes. Deal with them quickly and move on. Like Paul said in Philippians 3:12-14:
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)
Paul now switches to “slaves” or “servants” depending on your translations. This term can certainly be applied to the Christian employee today. There were probably sixty million slaves in the Roman Empire in that day, and slavery was an accepted institution as it was universal in the ancient world. Paul’s ministry was not to overthrow the Roman government or any of its institutions, but to preach the gospel and win the lost to Christ. Changing the world one soul at a time. To be sure the results of his evangelism ultimately led to the overthrow of the Roman Empire, but that was not Paul’s main motive. Just as the preaching of Wesley and Whitfield resulted in the abolition and child labor, the elevation of women, and the care of the needy, so Paul’s ministry contributed to the death of slavery and the encouragement of freedom. However, he was careful not to confuse the social system with the spiritual order in the church and we are to do likewise. Sometimes our “causes” get in the way of our Christ, Amen?  We can get so involved with our causes that we forget the main thing is leading the lost to Jesus.
Paul admonishes the servants to be obedient from the heart because in serving them they were serving the Lord Jesus – their true Master in heaven. The heart attitude was important – the best way to be a good witness is to do a good day’s work. The Christian worker will avoid only working when he is being watched giving a false impression that he is doing a very good job. The will of God is for us to do our best work. Paul writes in Colossians 3:23-25:
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.  Colossians 3:23-25 (NIV)

God is always watching whether the employer is or not and we live to please the Lord because we shall receive our rewards from Christ.

The Christian faith does not bring about harmony by erasing social or cultural distinction. Servants are still servants when they trust Christ and masters are still masters. Rather, the Christian faith brings harmony by working in the heart. Christ gives us a new motivation, not a new organization or position. Both servant and master are serving the Lord and seeking to please Him, and in this way they are able to work together to the glory of God.

One of the responsibilities of a Christian master (or employee) is to seek the welfare of his workers. If the employer expects the workers to do their best for him, he must do his best for them. The employer must serve the Lord from his heart if he expects his servants to do the same. He is not to exploit them. One of the best examples of this in Scripture is the story of Ruth and Boaz. Boaz was sensitive to the needs of his workers and generous to the stranger, Ruth. His relationship with his workers was one of mutual respect and a desire to glorify God. The Christian employer knows he has a Master in heaven to whom he must give an account. Each person in submission to the Lord has no problem submitting to those over them. Even after a man becomes a leader, he must still lead by serving.  That is the greatest leader. Just look at Jesus’ life who stated in Matthew 20:25-28:
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV)

God is no respecter of persons. He will judge a master or a servant if he sins, or He will reward a master or a servant if he obeys. All believers are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  

In the final analysis this is what matters to most people: it is not the position we hold, whether it is high or low by worldly standards, management or labor, or even (in a certain sense) slave or master. What matters is whether we are treated with dignity, whether we are regarded as having real worth. Christianity declares, “You do have real worth! You are made in God’s image!  What you do does matter!” If so, we should do our own work well and value others.

I close by repeating Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23-25 as it is so fitting an ending:
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.  Colossians 3:23-25 (NIV)

These are Beth’s personal notes, due to this fact sources are not often stated.

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